Feeds

MS uses court order to take out Waledac botnet

Zombie network decapitated. For now

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

Microsoft has won a court-issued take-down order against scores of domains associated with controlling the spam-spewing Waledac botnet.

The software giant's order allows the temporary cut-off of traffic to 277 Internet domains that form command and control nodes for the network of compromised machines. Infected (zombie) machines are programmed to regularly poll these control points for instructions and spam templates.

The .com domains, registered in China, will be sin-binned by VeriSign, at least temporarily decapitating the network. Microsoft estimates that Waledac was one of the 10 largest botnets in the US and a major distributor of spam for online (unlicensed) pharmacies, knock-off goods and other tat, as explained in a blog posting by its legal team here.

Waledac is estimated to have infected hundreds of thousands of computers around the world and, prior to this action, was believed to have the capacity to send over 1.5 billion spam emails per day. In a recent analysis, Microsoft found that between December 3-21, 2009, approximately 651 million spam emails attributable to Waledac were directed to Hotmail accounts alone, including offers and scams related to online pharmacies, imitation goods, jobs, penny stocks and more.

The Microsoft lawsuit also accuses 27 as-yet-unnamed defendants of cybercrime offences associated with the Waledac botnet.

Redmond's techies have followed up the legal action with "ethical countermeasures to downgrade much of the remaining peer-to-peer command and control communication" within the botnet, in partnership with its security firm partners.

Operation b49, as Microsoft dubs the Waledac takedown, still leaves the problem of hundreds of thousands of infected PCs, as Redmond readily acknowledges. Clean-up advice including a suggestion to try out Microsoft's malicious software removal tool is included in the bottom paragraphs of a blog post by Tim Cranton, associate general counsel at Microsoft, here.

Criminals running botnets have faced a number of takedown operations over the last year or so, dating back to the McColo shutdown. All normally result in a temporary slowdown in spam volumes. But cybercrooks are getting better at building more resilient networks. Even if that doesn't work, there are always more miscreants in the shadows ready to step in and sell bulk mail services to unethical, unscrupulous or outright criminal marketeers.

Microsoft's enforcement action is welcome, but it treats only the symptoms - and not the root cause - of the botnet epidemic. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
FYI: OS X Yosemite's Spotlight tells Apple EVERYTHING you're looking for
It's on by default – didn't you read the small print?
Russian hackers exploit 'Sandworm' bug 'to spy on NATO, EU PCs'
Fix imminent from Microsoft for Vista, Server 2008, other stuff
Edward who? GCHQ boss dodges Snowden topic during last speech
UK spies would rather 'walk' than do 'mass surveillance'
Microsoft pulls another dodgy patch
Redmond makes a hash of hashing add-on
NOT OK GOOGLE: Android images can conceal code
It's been fixed, but hordes won't have applied the upgrade
Apple grapple: Congress kills FBI's Cupertino crypto kybosh plan
Encryption would lead us all into a 'dark place', claim G-Men
'LulzSec leader Aush0k' found to be naughty boy not worthy of jail
15 months home detention leaves egg on feds' faces as they grab for more power
China is ALREADY spying on Apple iCloud users, claims watchdog
Attack harvests users' info at iPhone 6 launch
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.